You can almost hear the stomping of boots and the whinny of a horse or two when you step through the bronze and glass doors of Old Ebbitt Grill in Washington, D.C. It was originally established as a boarding house in 1856, but quickly became a tavern when no boarders could be established.
The bright Beaux Art facade you experience at the entryway belies the cool, dark interior more often associated with a Victorian saloon. When you step through the doors of Old Ebbit Grill, you leave today behind and step into the past, when men still wore boots and hats every day and women wore long skirts and corsets. You comprehend immediately that the mahogany and velvet booths weren't made in this century, and though the bar itself is less than 30 years old, the marble, brass and beveled glass came from the orginal bar and is clearly designed to evoke another time. You can easily imagine the discussions and heated political arguments that have taken place in these booths over the past 150 years.
The current location is just yards away from some of the biggest attractions in Washington D.C. - the White House, the Treasury, the Capitol building, the Mall and the various Smithsonian museums. Yet it feels worlds away from tourists and the overall insanity of D.C. and its traffic. We sat at the bar and ordered cold drinks. Gin and tonics were refreshing! The walk from the Mall was in full-sun, mid-June and though the Grill was comfortable, our internal body temperatures couldn't recover from the heat without a little help from our bartender. We ordered another round.
Old Ebbitt Grill has always been popular with the power brokers of Washington. Now it's equally popular with politicians, journalists, celebrities and theater-goers. My group fell into none of those categories. We were the underepresented tourists.